Battlestar Galactica #62: Scar

"You know what gets me? I know that in two weeks, I won't remember his face. I can't remember any of their faces after they're killed. No matter how hard I try, they just fade."
SO SAY WE ALL: A veteran Cylon raider plagues Galactica's Viper squadron.

REVIEW: There's something that feels a little redundant about Scar, and not just because I've seen a similar storyline before (see All This Has Happened...), but because exploring Starbuck's self-destructive impulses, back to back with Apollo's, seems a bit much. Then again, Scar is very much about the pilot's grind, day in, day out, going out and risking death. Comrades die, they get replaced by an ever more inexperienced group that serves as canon fodder, and you just forget their names and faces, because you can't face your survivor's guilt, your... battle scars. Bringing this into focus is a Cylon raider literally called Scar, who conducts hit and run attacks on Vipers trying to protect a vital mining mission. He's become a legend, one that picks away at the squadron, but also at morale. Sharon shares a chilling thought with Starbuck that raiders, like other Cylons, get resurrected, each time with more rage and a vengeful memory. It even suggests (though we have no proof, except for the "previously" shots at the beginning of the episode) that it might be the same raider Starbuck gutted and flew. And without a resurrection ship, its survival instincts are sharpened and making it even more dangerous.

At the heart of the drama here is the conflict between Starbuck and Kat. Kat has become the new Starbuck, insolently questioning orders and her superior officer's fitness; Starbuck as the new Tigh, drunk and making mistakes. It's our girl Kara who is coming off as worst off, on the road to oblivion over her guilt at not finding a way to return to Caprica to save Anders, as promised. By the end, the need to fulfill that promise is what's going to save her life and not kill herself playing chicken with Scar. The two women clash, but in the end work together to destroy a common foe - Scar get a gorier than usual end, well-deserved as the "Boss Raider" - but the episode still ends on a tense note. It doesn't make them friends, and forgiveness is given unenthusiastically. While the episode shows us celebration, gallows humor, and attempts at vain moments of carpe diem (such as Kara aggressively jumping Lee's bones before he has to put an end to it), it's all a big coping mechanism. These people are living in the shadow of death, all convinced they won't live to see Earth. Kara committing to her promise to Anders at the end is actually an upbeat ending in terms of this show, even if it's essentially a repeat of something that had happened before.

So while there are some cool dogfighting sequences, a creepy enemy, and plenty of drama, I was all set to call Scar a middling BSG episode, one that told me things I already knew, and put Starbuck back on a road she hadn't abandoned for long. The, that ending. Kat forces her to fill her cup, gloating about having been the one to kill Scar. Starbuck does so, through gritted teeth, before lifting her bottle and reciting the names of (almost) all the pilots that have died in the line of duty, showing that no matter what she says, she remembers their names. A look around the room, emotional reactions, some remember, some grieve. Tigh is evidently touched (he was, after all, the most outraged at their losses). Adama has a resting smile in the back, a rare appearance in the barracks for him. But he's got his role to play. I'm already teetering on the edge, when he adds "So say we all" after the toast, and I lose it. I'm losing it writing about it. Powerful finish.

Now can someone confirm or deny that the picture of Reilly's girlfriend that Kat ends up putting in the memorial corridor is Summer Glau?!

ALL THIS HAS HAPPENED BEFORE AND IT WILL HAPPEN AGAIN: This episode very strongly reminded me of certain episodes of Space: Above and Beyond, where the starring pilots went up after a distinctive veteran enemy ship they called Chiggy von Richthofen, a reference to WWI's Red Baron. It's not too hard to see both Starbuck and Kat in that show's Shane Vansen. Connections to the original Battlestar Galactica include a shot of the landram, here used as a mining vehicle, and Kat remembering Reilly's girlfriend might be called Kassie/Cassie, which was Starbuck's nickname for his girlfriend, Cassiopeia.

HUMAN DEATH TOLL: Headcount starts at 49,593, 4 down from the previous count, which would include at least one pilot killed by Scar - Beano, who is killed before "96 hours previously". Three more Viper pilots will die over the course of the episode - Reilly, BB, and Jo-Jo.

VERSIONS:
Deleted scenes include more barracks business including an auction for dead pilots' property (a girly magazine); Helo lifting Starbuck up after her drunken dive; Tigh confronting Roslin about casualties and the president pushing back; Apollo admitting he considered having a family (tying into Black Market's mostly deleted subplot); and an alternate ending where Starbuck promises to go back to Anders over her prayer idols (in that edit, Kat's visit to the memorial would have taken place at the end of the episode, just before Starbuck's scene).

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - A Medium until that ending puts it all into focus. But even before then, it's a strong war story.

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